Learning to Live Mindfully in Sobriety
I was never mindful when I was drinking.
There have been endless examples of my inability to simply sit and enjoy the moment over the years, but one memory sticks out in my mind. I can vividly remember sitting at a wine bar with a group of girl friends during the Traverse City Film Festival several years ago. We were on our way to catch the Conan O’Brien movie and started the evening by sharing a bottle of champagne. As the server filled each glass, I stared at each pour, making sure I got as much as everyone else. I remember a ping in my stomach; an unsettled feeling, knowing that the glass of champagne wouldn’t fill the emptiness I felt inside. I felt anxious, out of place, and uncomfortable- but if, and only if, I could numb out my discomfort, maybe I would be okay.
We left the bar after those glasses, and the only thing on my mind was getting another drink. That “on and off” switch is very real for an alcoholic- one drink is too much and a thousand are never enough. I didn’t simply enjoy the champagne like the others did, nor did I enjoy the moment.
I wanted more.
That was also the first year I tried to get sober.
My life has been a variation of this experience, from shopping to dreaming about my future. What was right in front of me was never sufficient; I was always fixated on what was next.
My life started to fall apart three years ago when I was living in New York. My drinking was getting out of control, my roommate had enough of my shenanigans, and I begrudgingly went to my Fifth Avenue marketing job with the shakes. My dating life was a mess, my finances were out of control, and I was unhappy within my own skin.
From the outside, it appeared everything was wonderful. On the inside, I wanted to be anywhere but where I was- within myself.
I bought the greatest outfits and spent my spare time with friends who would commiserate with my sadness over a vodka cocktail and 2016 election news. I dreaded when the nights would end, for I had to face the day ahead of me. Plagued with uncertainty and fear, I knew I had to make a change.
I left New York on July 25th, 2016, and moved back to Michigan for the summer. I may not have stayed sober that time, but I did learn an important lesson: there is beauty in simplicity. There is comfort in enjoying the moment. All of the achievements and things on the “outside” may be nice, but those things won’t give you peace.
Only you can do that.
It’s been almost three years since I left New York and eight since that day at the Traverse City wine bar, but today I’m reminiscing on how hard I was on myself over the years, and how I failed to notice the most important thing of all: that if I can find contentment in the moment, the future will unfold on its own.
Each and every day takes practice. It’s in our nature to think ahead, but today I know that there is nothing a drink or quick fix will remedy- sometimes, you just have to sit by the river, look up at the clouds, and enjoy the beauty around you.
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